School name: Georgia State University
Type of college/university: R1 university; my position is teaching focused
School locale: Downtown Atlanta, GA
Classes you teach:
Research methods and statistics, Introductory psychology, Interpersonal Behavior, a capstone seminar on parenting, and for the first time this semester, Positive Psychology. I like variety, and find that teaching different classes in the same semester actually helps me to focus better on each class individually.
Average class size: This varies widely – from 25 students in advanced research design and analysis to 120 in Introductory psychology
What’s the best advice about teaching you’ve ever received? One of the best pieces of advice I’ve gotten is not to be shy about asking for advice – so I’m not! Along the way, I’ve been fortunate to receive lots and lots of helpful information from colleagues in my department and through conferences. Another piece of advice that helped me most when I was feeling very overwhelmed in my first semester of teaching full-time was when my teaching mentor told me that teaching would get easier as I did it more. Thankfully she was right!
What book or article has shaped your work as a psychology teacher? I don’t have a particular book or article to point to, but ideas from these sources have shaped my teaching. For example, based on all of the empirical evidence (presented in books and articles) on the value of ensuring that students have read the chapter before class, all my classes now involve reading quizzes that students must complete before the class meets. This requirement allows me to approach the material from that minimal level of preparation by students.
Briefly tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach. I have favorite lecture topics within each class I teach, but my favorite class overall is research methods. We offer a two-semester sequence of integrated research methods and statistics, and I love both of them. Students are typically very concerned about these topics and classes, and I love to show students how the material is relevant, why it matters, and to support them in mastering the concepts. It’s always my hope to move students (at least a few) from research methods haters to research methods lovers, like me.
Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity. Again, I have many activities that I enjoy doing with my students, but one of my overall favorites involves article analyses in my research methods courses. I have students read and answer a series of questions about an empirical journal article before class, and then we discuss the article more in-depth in class to illustrate certain concepts. For example, in my Intro to research methods class, I have students pretend to be members of the IRB and discuss if they would approve Middlemist et al.’s (1976) study, which was conducted in a public restroom. In my advanced class, we consider design and statistical concepts as they relate to the study, considering questions such as if the study could be conducted differently and why the researchers made certain methodological choices. I love seeing students light up when they realize they can really understand the methods section and can read the results section of an article – areas they previously would have skipped over.
What teaching or learning techniques work best for you?
I find that my best classes are those in which it feels like the students and I are having an open conversation about the topic, so I strive for that atmosphere and approach on all my classes. I also try to make sure students are doing as much hands-on experiential learning as possible.
What’s your workspace like?
I work in a variety of places, but the most consistent is in my office at GSU. It’s fairly organized because too much clutter distracts me, but there are also always a couple of piles of papers on my desk during the semester, including notes I make for
myself on random pieces of paper. I have a “clean out day” in which I clear out all of the piles, recycle old papers, file things, etc. at the end of each semester because I really like starting a new semester with a clear and open work space.
Three words that best describe your teaching style.
Enthusiastic, supportive, interactive
What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer?
Support students in reaching a high standard OR Enthusiasm is contagious
Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you’ve had and how you dealt with the situation. During one of my first classes, my cell phone went off. I was mortified. There was nothing to do but to apologize and assure my students it would not happen again (and it hasn’t – that was the first semester I was teaching and I’ve not repeated this mistake again). Occasionally there will be a mistake on an exam – something mistyped, two correct answers in a multiple choice question, etc. In these cases, I have found it’s best to reassure students that I will address the issue in grading (e.g., both right answers will get credit) and then I like to give my students a point or two as bonus for my error. I explain that as I mark off points for their mistakes, it’s only fair to give points for my mistakes.
What are you currently reading for pleasure? Unfortunately, I don’t accomplish too much pleasure reading during the semester, but I still try to read whenever I can. I love memoirs, and right now I’m reading “Glitter and Glue” by Kelly Corrigan.
What tech tool could you not live without?
In terms of tech tools, it’s really basic – I find the internet is a great starting place for any topic. But I’m actually more old-school and I like to talk to my colleagues and to look through instructor manuals as other starting places for ideas. Good manuals that expand the content and provide ideas for interactive activities, such as Martin Bolt’s companion for teaching Introductory psychology and Beth Morling’s Instructor guide for her research methods text – not manuals that just present the chapter framework on power point slides – are really useful to me. I then modify these ideas to best fit my particular class and topic.
What’s your hallway chatter like? What do you talk to colleagues
about most (whether or not it is related to teaching/school)? Everyone at my work is pretty busy, but we do check in to discuss how the semester is going, including what is happening at our university and in our own lives as well as the world in general beyond academia.